Dating Someone of A Different Religion
Tips and Advice for Making Your Relationship Work When Your Significant Other is of Another Religion
Dear April Masini,
My boyfriend is Jewish, I'm Catholic, and everything is great between us until holidays like Easter come up. Neither of us knows exactly what we're supposed to do in each other's religious settings. Are there rules we should be following? Please give me any advice or tips you have for couples in relationships with someone of a different faith."
Signed, Dating Outside My Religion
April Masini's Advice :
Dear Dating Outside My Religion:
Your question is particularly timely. There is so much dating, marrying and baby making between people of different religions, races, cultures, ethnicities - and political parties!! (Read more about making politically divided relationships work.) How do you make it work? It's easy to preach tolerance, but harder to implement it on a day to day basis especially when family and emotions are involved. But rest assured, I can help you with this one.
Don't Be an Egg-head at Easter-Egg Time:
Spirituality is on the rise, while traditional religion is on the downswing. This is a result of the all time high for inter-religious marriages and biracial marriages. Rather than lose religion all together, members of mixed couples look for religions institutions that welcome converts and those who are unaffiliated or shopping for a religion. In turn, religious institutions have opened their doors to less traditional families, and their congregations and memberships have grown. There are also institutions that are cropping up that are new blends or derivations of different religions. What this does is give you options - both short and long term.
Easter Services and Meals:
By all means, attend your honey's family traditions with him or her and show respect for any and all religions. This doesn't mean you have to or should participate in the religious aspects of the celebration. Showing respect means doing what is comfortable for you, and being quiet during what is not comfortable for you. In other words, if her family goes to church - or synagogue, then you should go, too, if only to see what it's like.
You don't have to:
Kneel if you're not comfortable.
Recite or sing along with the other churchgoers if you're not comfortable with the words. Participate in any part of the sermon that you're not sure of. Just stay seated if in doubt.
You Do Have To:
Show up to show respect.
Dress up to show respect. No jeans. Wear something nice and conservative. Better to have over-dressed than under dressed. (Read more for dress tips).
Ask questions if you want to know something, and find something about the service that you appreciate, whether it's the sense of community, the nice music, the beautiful architecture of the church, or a part of the sermon that resonates for you. At home events, the same rules apply. Show up for dinner - or lunch -- wear something respectful (no bare skin or unshaven body parts), and bring the hostess a gift that can be candy, a plant, or a bottle of wine or candles (Check out great hostess gifts you can buy and order here.) Don't drink too much. Ask if there's anything you can do to help, and find something about the event that you enjoy, and tell your honey and the host when you leave.
If You're Planning a Long Term Relationship
The secret to harmony in couples has less to do with similarities, than it does with equality in open-mindedness.
If one member of a couple wants a Catholic lifestyle, and the other one doesn’t really care, there is a strong chance for harmony. If one member of the couple wants to attend Judaic religious services and the other member is fine with that, and will even come to services, but would like to go to church also, again, there is a strong chance of harmony.
When Children Are Involved
Regardless of how open-minded singles or those who are married without children are, when the kids come, beliefs often change.
The best situation for children is for both parents to choose a religion to raise the children. Allowing children to choose their own religion creates responsibility that a child should not have and is often expressed in the child’s anxiety. Allowing children to have no religion until they are eighteen is equally stressful for the children.
The purpose of religion for children is to give them an identity. Regardless of what it is, it is a grounding force in their upbringing. If a child can say who or what he or she is, there is usually a positive outcome in self-esteem. ”I’m American. I’m Christian. My parents are divorced, and I have a sister.” While it seems like a simple statement of identification, the truth is this allows a child the ability to relax. He knows who he is. Anxiety comes from uncertainty.
When one parent decides to take on a religion that is new to him, in order to accommodate a new spouse and/or child, it is important that parent feel that the religion belongs to him. It is also important that the spouse who is not new to the religion is kind and understanding of the partner’s new journey.
Ultimately, respect is the basis for harmony in religion and spirituality among couples, families, communities and global peoples.